In an interview last week on Today,
host Matt Lauer told Olympian Brian Boitano that he was not surprised
to learn that Boitano was gay.
“Can I say, and please don't take
this the wrong way, I wasn't shocked when …,” Lauer
started to say before an excited Boitano jumped in with,
“Exactly. That's what I thought.”
Boitano, the 1988 Olympic figure
skating champion, announced he's gay two days after he was tapped by
President Barack Obama to join a 10-person delegation to represent
the U.S. at the Winter Olympics to be held next month in Sochi,
Russia. The inclusion of two openly gay athletes – tennis legend
Billie Jean King and hockey player Caitlin Cahow – made headlines
for what appeared to be a symbolic message from the White House to
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who in June signed a controversial
law banning the promotion of “gay propaganda.”
Boitano, 50, told Lauer that the
addition of three openly gay athletes to the delegation sends a
powerful message to Russia.
In speaking with the Times,
Boitano said that he was discouraged from coming out.
“After he won at the 1988 Olympics,
Boitano said, an agent of his at the time, whom he would not name,
told him: 'I don't know if you are gay or not, but you need to go on
TV and tell everybody you're not gay or at least allude to it, so I
can work on projects and endorsements for you.' I don't think anyone
would ever say that to any kid today.”
Some of Boitano's friends thought
Lauer's comment was inappropriate.
“I would say, even though it wasn't a
surprise to you, it might be a surprise to other people,” Boitano
said of Lauer. “The reason I'm doing this is to support the
president's message in Sochi. A lot of Russians don't know me.
That's the message I'm sending: I'm gay and I'm standing here as an
Olympic champion, representing the country. I needed in some way to
make it official.”